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History of         Mentoring

It has been an enormous privilege for Becky Cooper to have helped create impact-full, life-long relationships that have touched the lives of both the men-tees and their mentors.  And, what an honor it has been for her to be part of an incredible mentoring community – a true community of caring for children and youth.  


Becky's mentoring journey began in 1979 when she was hired as the first Program Coordinator for an emerging program in the San Francisco Bay Area, now known as Friends for Youth, Inc.  Becky reached out for resources on best practices, program models, and research on program effectiveness.  There was very little to find and so she set about looking at youth development and resiliency work. When mentoring research began to appear in the early 1990's, she discovered that the program that she had developed at Friends for Youth, Inc. had far greater impact on youth than other programs surveyed nationally.  

Becky was soon invited to participate in numerous state and national efforts to provide leadership to the newly forming mentoring field.​  A few of her career highlights are listed below.  After a fulfilling 35+ year tenure as CEO of Friends for Youth, she began to devote herself to sharing her expertise through training, consultation, and speaking at events and conferences. 

Looking back to her first exposure to mentoring in 1979, Becky was concerned about the great responsibility that came with matching vulnerable youth with adult volunteers who would build relationships with them.  As she endeavored to vet potential mentors, Becky was occasionally struck with an uneasiness or discomfort with an individual that she could not attribute to any specific event or knowledge.  Then, every once in awhile, she would see a small article buried in the back pages of a newspaper stating that someone had been charged with molesting a child in a youth-service setting.


Thus began Becky's search to find out how she could identify potential predators.  The subject of child predators is an uncomfortable topic, and there was a pervasive lack of knowledge on the subject.  Although it may be difficult, it is a necessary conversation.  Building on the work of Dr. A. Nicolas Groth, expertise provided by Sgt. Ted Marfia of the San Jose Police Department’s Child Exploitation Unit, and countless reviews of profiles of volunteers who were rejected by mentoring agencies, Becky compiled and shared this crucial information with others.  She developed SAFE training and a publication, SAFE:  Screening Applicants for Effectiveness.  Thousands of youth-serving professionals have now been trained on this topic.


There is greater awareness of this issue today.  Among others, the Catholic Church abuse incidents and the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State in 2010 brought the subject of child predators squarely in the public consciousness, and the demand for information has soared.  


There is still much work to be done to raise awareness and stop predators from infiltrating youth-serving organizations. It is Becky and her SAFE colleagues' most fervent hope that the information provided by SAFE will continue to help youth-serving agencies, along with parents and community members, become knowledgeable and proficient in keeping our children and youth safe.

Becky's Highlights & Accomplishments 

  • CEO Emeritus, Friends for Youth, Inc.

  • Stanford Graduate School of Business LEAD Conference Speaker

  • California Governor’s Mentoring Partnership Quality Assurance Standards Committee

  • Silicon Valley Mentoring Coalition Chair

  • Mentoring Children of Prisoners National Support Center Advisory Board

  • Chapter author in Community Educators: A Resource for Educating and Developing Our Youth

  • Chapter co-author on screening for 2nd edition of The Handbook of Youth Mentoring

  • Running a Safe and Effective Mentoring Program co-author

  • Kettering Foundation Learning Cohort member: Citizens are a Resource for Education

  • San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame inductee
  • East Palo Alto Youth Development Center Board Secretary

  • National Working Group on Accreditation member, convened by MENTOR

  • Singapore National Youth Council Conference Keynote Presenter

  • Stanford School of Education course presenter “Urban Youth and Their Institutions”

  • Annual MENTOR Summit; Department of Education Mentoring Grantee Conference; Alberta Mentoring Partnership Conference + numerous other conference workshops and training

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